|By Kevin Collison, The Kansas City Star,
Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 20, 2011--THE HYATT REGENCY -- at least in name -- will be gone from Kansas City at the end of the year.
The 40-story hotel where Kansas City's worst tragedy occurred 30 years ago last weekend will become the Sheraton Crown Center on Jan. 1. Crown Center Redevelopment Corp. announced the management change Tuesday.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts now has the franchise for both hotels owned by Crown Center, the Hyatt and the Westin Crown Center. Starwood already was managing the Westin, and that name will remain in place.
"Crown Center has enjoyed working with Hyatt Hotels for more than 30 years, and we wish them all the best in the future," said Bill Lucas, president of Crown Center Redevelopment. "We've also had a long relationship with Starwood, one we look forward to expanding."
Lucas said the announcement of the new franchise agreement was delayed until after the anniversary commemoration of the skywalk catastrophe that claimed 114 lives on July 17, 1981.
"It was pretty well done two or three weeks ago, but in deference to the memorial services this past weekend we delayed this announcement," he said. "We didn't want this to pre-empt or do anything to take away attention from that."
The franchise agreement for the hotels was put out for bid about 14 months ago. Lucas said that five management companies, including Hyatt, responded and that the competition was fierce.
Starwood was chosen in part because it would be able to offer a common management for two distinctive hotels.
"That can bring a lot of efficiencies, and it makes it easier to do business for groups and conventions," he said.
Starwood also will run the Crown Center Exhibit Hall and Milano and Crayola Cafe in Crown Center.
Over the next three years, Crown Center and Starwood plan to invest more than $18 million in the two hotels. The 733-room Hyatt at 2345 McGee St. opened in 1980, and the 724-room Westin at 1 E. Pershing Road opened in 1973.
Although the Hyatt Regency name will vanish locally next year, Lucas said that wouldn't change how Crown Center and Hallmark viewed the legacy of the skywalk tragedy.
"It will always be a traumatic and tragic event," he said. "There's never any getting away from that."
"For the people at Crown Center and Hallmark, it influences how we do things. That won't go away, the name notwithstanding."
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